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Scholarship recipients


Parents, loved ones, and family members


My parliamentary colleagues, SMS Janil Puthucheary and SPS Rahayu Mahzam


Ladies and gentlemen


1.             We have 161 scholarship recipients today, slightly higher than previous years. To all of you, whether you are studying locally or overseas, whether you are mid-career or just beginning your studies, congratulations.


2.             About 35 years ago, I was seated somewhere like you, not for the Healthcare Scholarship, but a Public Service Commission Scholarship. I went for many interviews, and finally the Public Service Division (PSD) offered me a local scholarship, which was converted to an overseas scholarship subsequently.


3.             I was going to take whatever was given to me. At that time, all I wanted was a scholarship, and hopefully an overseas one, so that I could go overseas to study because my parents could not afford it, and I wanted an overseas experience. At that time, if you had asked me about my career plans, I had no idea. I also had no idea what I wanted to go into when I came back.


4.             When I graduated, I went for PSD’s job interview because PSD needed to emplace me and was considering me for the Administrative Service. So that was my time, with a very faint idea of what we wanted for our careers. We just took it a step at a time.


5.             I met a few of you earlier during tea, and I asked what was stressing young people. One of you who works at the Institute of Mental Health told me the stress you face includes what to do with your career. In a way, having too many choices gives you stress. During my time, when we had fewer choices, there was no stress. I took whatever came my way. But times have changed. Singapore’s economy is a lot more diverse and there are so many education pathways. As Education Minister in the past, I have always said that there is no wrong pathway. When one door closes, another opens. So there are choices out there now. Even if you take one path, you can still switch paths later. That gives you choice, but it also gives you stress.


6.             But I am glad everyone here today chose the path of healthcare at a fairly young age. It is sometimes quite daunting for young people to choose a path at such a young age. I know that amongst you, there are those who are very sure that this is the path you want to take, but there are also those who are unsure, but have decided to go with the flow first, and see how it develops. Whatever it is, it is a path worth sticking to.


7.             Today, I will start by telling you three reasons why I have a strong feeling that your choice is likely to be correct. So whenever you are in doubt, remember these reasons.


8.             The first is a very simple reason. You will have work and not be unemployed. It is a serious reason, because we have taken full employment of our youth for granted. In Singapore, we have been doing well. For the young, if you want to work, you can find work, regardless of where you graduate from. By and large, we have practically full youth employment. If you look at China now, youth unemployment is at 22%, meaning one out of every five young people is jobless, and another two or three may end up doing gig work. In Singapore, you can find work and if you choose healthcare, you may have too much work. The reason is because with an ageing population, the healthcare sector is expanding.


9.             The second reason is that by joining public healthcare, there is a great opportunity for you to learn, develop and grow your career, because it is a huge ecosystem. We have many institutions and some of you are already attached to them. We have the hospital clusters, polyclinics, community care sector, and our companies IHiS, AIC, and also MOH HQ. There are so many choices.


10.          I was looking through all the disciplines that you have gone into. Some of you are doing medicine, dentistry, nursing, allied health, pharmacy, public health, speech therapy, psychology, epidemiology, data analytics, biostatistics, and health economics. The public healthcare sector is such a big ecosystem and we need diverse talents.


11.          Once you are in a public healthcare institution, you will experience a multidisciplinary practice. For those in clinical practice, you will see all kinds of cases, and you really learn, not just through experience, but from your colleagues, including your seniors and peers whom you work with. It is an excellent learning opportunity. It will be very exciting and fast paced, with something new every day and never a dull day. You will always be learning.


12.          The final reason is that you are coming into healthcare at a very exciting time. Because we are an ageing society, the burden on healthcare is tremendous. We are also just emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic. So the next few years is a critical period for healthcare transformation in Singapore. You would have read about how we now have three healthcare clusters. There is an IT Masterplan that we are implementing. We are linking up all the institutions and different settings, and ensuring integrated care. We are implementing public health and preventive care – Healthier SG – in a big way. We are ensuring that our seniors can age gracefully with dignity in the community.


13.          All these are major changes that other countries are looking at Singapore as a pioneer and a model of how our healthcare system is structured. These are exciting times ahead as you come into public healthcare.


14.          Notwithstanding all the things I said, I also want to keep it real. When you come into a profession as challenging as healthcare, you will face setbacks, difficulties and challenges. Here are three things to bear in mind as you embark on this opportunity of a lifetime.


15.          One, make full use of your education journey. Many of you are doing undergraduate studies, and some postgrad. Whatever it is, make full use of your journey. Remember that education is not just about your academic studies, although these are still very important. It is good to take your academic pursuits  and courses seriously. But they are not the be-all and end-all.


16.          Have a full, enriching and fulfilling education experience. Everything happening around you is just as important. In particular, cherish the friendships you make as you study, cherish all the experiences that you have – whether it is camping, backpacking, your orientation, your attachment or your internship – and make full use of these experiences.


17.          The  second thing to remember is that life is full of setbacks, so be prepared to take some knocks. When you have a setback, never think it is the end of the world. Always make the best use of any setback because what does not kill you will make you stronger. I speak from experience. Never think it is the end of the world when you have a setback.


18.          And finally, always remember the purpose of healthcare. When I chatted with some of you earlier, I asked why you have chosen healthcare. Often, a good half of you will say because my parents, my auntie or my sister are in healthcare. Healthcare and education are the two sectors I have been in where you find generations going into the same profession. I think this is for a good reason. If I look back on my life, the people who matter to me and changed my life in one way or another, other than my immediate family, are either teachers or people in healthcare or medicine. They either nurture you, teach you, save you or relieve you from pain, or they are there giving you comfort when you need it most. That is why education and healthcare are professions that are very close to my heart.


19.             To conclude, I asked Anthony Tan, CEO of MOH Holdings, what he wants to tell the scholars. These are his wise words – study well, do not be naughty, and come back to serve. Congratulations and thank you.

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